The Conestoga Wagon Ride - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

April 25, 2020 to April 26, 2020

The Conestoga Wagon Ride

Yesterday

Yesterday’s ride was an exact repetition of one we took about 10 days ago, south along Canyon Creek into Malheur National Forest.  It’s warmer but much grayer this time, but otherwise the same ride.  You’ve seen it before and it’s not the most dramatic road in the portfolio anyway, so we’ll keep our report brief and the images few.

Today’s ride was our small contribution to Bike for Humanity, the virtual mass cycling event to support various Coronavirus relief causes conceived of by Bill Walton, former NBA star for the Portland Trailblazers turned cycling evangelist.  When we return to Portland in June and pick up our mail, we’ll show off our new Bike for Humanity tee shirts.

Probably the most noteworthy news of the day, other than for a pair of inconsequential but concerning loose dog encounters (we really are going to have to get a whistle for Rachael before she feels safe on a county road again) is that I had my first SVT attack in probably six weeks.  Mild and unconcerning, but disappointing.  It’s been so long since the last one that I’ve been letting myself imagine they’re now just a thing from the past.  Nope.  As so often happens now, the timing of today’s episode was just bizarre - after climbing steadily uphill and up 2,000’ for 20 miles, I sensed something was wrong about a quarter mile into the descent.  Why now, when I’m just coasting downhill?  

It’s always nice to have a ride that starts right from our front door. Probably my only quibble about John Day as a cycling base is that most of the great rides require either a car to get to the starting point or younger legs that don’t mind putting in much longer days in the saddle.
Heart 3 Comment 0
I was surprised by how much water is still cascading down Canyon Creek. If anything, it’s fuller today than it was the last time we were out here.
Heart 2 Comment 0
At the high point of the ride, at about 5,000’. When we were here ten days ago the ground on the right side of the road was solid white.
Heart 1 Comment 0
About a half mile down from the summit, at the only mountain view on the ride. We stopped here for ten or fifteen minutes to make the most of this brief spectacle.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Also, to wait out an SVT episode. So ironic. Last night we were commenting that I hadn’t had one since leaving Portland. When will we ever learn? We jinxed it.
Heart 1 Comment 1
Jen GrumbyMay the next multiple weeks be SVT-free!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Heart 0 Comment 0

Ride stats today: 42 miles, 2,000’

Today’s ride

Today’s ride is one I’ve been planning ever since rereading the Grumbys ride From Sumpter to Prairie City, a grueling and sweltering three pass day in the heat of summer - Ron claimed it was 312 degrees at Dixie Summit, and that they logged 38,001’ of climbing by day’s end.   Tough! 

Before continuing on, readers are advised to stop here for the moment and read the above-linked entry from their great journal, Undaunted Porridge, just for context.  You’ll probably want to just keep reading once you’re there, which is fine; but do come back when you’re done.

We are nowhere near as tough as the Grumbys and don’t intend to repeat their grueling ride, but we do mean to bike up toward Dixie Summit far enough to reach the stunning overlook of the Strawberry Range that we took in some days back on our way home from our first ride to Galena.  We’re going there so we can stage a reenactment of these two classic shots we copied over from the Grumby’s journal:

From Undaunted Porridge: “We had to stop at the giant covered wagon on the west side of Dixie Pass.“
Heart 1 Comment 3
Jen GrumbyIt's OK to 'like' your own photo if it's in someone else's journal .. right?
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyA sticky ethical point. Better would be if I could just link to the original and have it display here, but that doesn’t really work yet. When this is all done, maybe I can deem some votes to you two.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Ron SuchanekI don't look so tough in this photo.
Reply to this comment
3 weeks ago
From Undaunted Porridge: “Jen looking out over the valley towards the Strawberry Mountains.”
Heart 2 Comment 0

Its just these two photos we’ll be reenacting though.  I have my own great Clint Eastwood impersonation of course (and who doesn’t?), but I don’t want to to upstage Ron here.  Better you should go to their journal and see for yourself (in fact, as I suggested above, you should have done so already by now).

We’re in luck today, because the weather is perfect for a ride like this: sunny, comfortably warm, good visibility, modest winds.  Better yet, it’s the weekend; so traffic on US 26 should be modest too.  So much nicer than riding this highway when it’s 312 degrees out.

It’s warm enough that we get an earlier start than usual, leaving home at about ten.  The day starts with the thirteen mile ride east to Prairie City, a stretch of highway we’ve seen a few times now.  This is probably the stretch of road we’ve covered the most often here, and by now it feels like we know every rise and highlight.  As we bike it this morning, I’m feeling nostalgic in anticipation of leaving John Day soon.  I wonder how long it will be before we make it back to this part of the world again.

Yes! This is what I call a perfect day to ride!
Heart 4 Comment 0
A little experiment in shooting while biking. Don’t tell Rachael though - she definitely wouldn’t approve.
Heart 2 Comment 3
Jen GrumbyIt always makes me nervous when Ron shoots while riding.

I've tried it a few times. Certainly saves time, but not sure the time benefit outweighs the risk of falling or dropping the camera.

In any case .. nice shot!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI don’t trust it and almost never do this either. Among other things, it’s too hard to focus and get a decent shot. For some reason though I got fixated on Rachael’s shadow as we were biking along and decided to make an exception.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Ron SuchanekIt is a very bad habit of mine.
Reply to this comment
3 weeks ago
Like all the other nearby peaks, Dixie Butte has a lot less white up top than when we arrived.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Looking south across Indian Creek.
Heart 1 Comment 0
This is definitely a view I’m going to miss.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Prairie CIty: an attractive little place we’d like to stay at someday.
Heart 2 Comment 1
Ron SuchanekIt's a great little town.
Reply to this comment
3 weeks ago

Beyond Prairie City, we’re in new territory.  All the way from John Day we’ve been following the river, slowly gaining elevation: Prairie City, at 3,500’, lies about 500’ above John Day.  Beyond Prairie City the highway continues following the river for another two miles but then angles northeast, splits away from the river, and commences climbing at about a 5% pitch.  It will continue like this for the next three or four miles  until we come to viewpoint with the Conestoga wagon, our primary goal for today’s ride.

Ever the good citizen, Rachael keeps well to the right
Heart 2 Comment 0
The Conestoga wagon is in our sights.
Heart 2 Comment 0

The great Conestoga Wagon Photo Reenactment is the primary goal for the day, but with conditions like these we decide to squeeze in a secondary goal as well: the magical 42 mile bike ride.  Rachael looks back as she passes the viewpoint to make sure I’m with the program, and then just keeps climbing.  She won’t stop for another two miles, turning back right at 21 miles.  For a change, I’m not far behind.  I lose a bit stopping for a few more photos, but I’m less than a quarter mile back when she comes back into view again.

It’s good we kept going, because the views of the Strawberry Range are actually better another half mile up the road. You can see the Conestoga wagon below - it’s the white speck just to the right of the road.
Heart 3 Comment 0
And it would be a shame to miss this colorful roadside cut.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Arizona!
Heart 3 Comment 0
The sign says there’s a viewpoint a half mile ahead, but it’s not bad here either.
Heart 4 Comment 2
Jen GrumbySpectacular!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyAnother wonderful thing about bicycling, of course. You can stop at the best spots.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago

We’ve got the viewpoint to ourselves when we pull in, which is nice.  Neither one of us likes making a spectacle of ourselves.  It’s nice to go about our business in peace.  We get out the cellphone and bring up the two Grumby photos to use as models, and take turns striking poses.  We take multiple shots, hoping something will look like a credible counterfeit of the original.  Looking at them both now, I have to say I’m just a bit disappointed.  We didn’t get the postures or angles just right, and I didn’t think to clean the camera lens.  Still, an honest effort.

Afterwards we lean against a wagon wheel, eating our turkey and cheese sandwiches and soaking up the sublime view while trying to shelter ourselves as much as possible from the brisk wind.  Then, to home again - 18 miles away, all downhill.

Lights! Cameras! Action!
Heart 4 Comment 0
We didn’t get the posture just right here. Rachael’s foot is hurting her so she had a bit of a problem balancing on the rocks in the same way Jen did. Also, she didn’t bring a wide brimmed hat. Also, there’s that annoying blanket of snow on yonder mountains. Otherwise, almost exactly the same.
Heart 5 Comment 2
Jen GrumbyI'd say this is a pretty nice evolution of the pose .. the stance more contemplative and the absence of the wide brimmed hat less goofy.

The wide brimmed helmet is pretty sweet on a 312-degree day, but is pretty ridiculous-looking and is a bit of a neck snapper in strong winds.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYou’re right bout the contemplative aspect, which was a lucky accident. It reminds me a bit of Wyeth’s Christina’s World.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
With more foresight I could have skipped shaving for the past week to give it that grizzled, old prospector look. No excuse for not cleaning the camera lens though.
Heart 2 Comment 2
Jen GrumbyHey! Is that Clint Eastwood?
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Ron SuchanekYou nailed it!
Reply to this comment
3 weeks ago

Video sound track: Spring Lullaby, by Gabriel Lee

Heart 0 Comment 0

Ride stats today: 42 miles, 2,200’

Rate this entry's writing Heart 6
Comment on this entry Comment 3
Jen GrumbyThanks for this great blast from the past!

Looks like a much better ride on a cooler day.

Beautiful!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Ron SuchanekThanks for the references to our journal. The rides you are posting bring back memories. I can't wait to get back out on the road.
Reply to this comment
3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekSure. And we owe you a few rating points, I see. I’ll have to check with Jeff to see if there’s a way to deem them back to their proper owner.

And thanks for the inspiration! This was a great ride, and one we might not have done if I hadn’t been inspired by your journal.
Reply to this comment
3 weeks ago